THE LIBRARY OF THE
AT CHAPEL HILL
THE COLLECTION OF
John L. Sandesr
BENJAMIN NEWTON DUKE
of a Family
and a University
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEDICATION OF THE STATUE OF
BENJAMIN NEWTON DUKE
Robert F. Durdcn has ir exactly right in the title of his hook THE DUKES OF
DURHAM. The father, Wishmgton Duke (1S2()-1905), and his two sons, Benjamin
Newton Duke (ISS5-1929) and janies Buchanan Duke (1S56-1925) are the most suc-
cessful team m the history of Durham .\ni.\ Duke Unnersiry. Although all three are buried
in recumbent sarcophagi in the Memorial Chapel, WLishington and James B. have been
the most easily recognized on campus because of their outdoor statues. The elder gentle-
man is seated serenely in the East C^ampus traffic circle and the younger brother stands
larger than life with cane and cigar surveying West Campus. Today as part of the seventy-
hfth anniversary celebration of Duke University and The Duke Endowment, we dedicate
an outdoor statue to Benjamin Newton Duke.
Benjamin Duke has not been forgotten. His interest in beautihcation is acknowl-
edged by the plaque inside the Main Street entrance noting his gift in 1915 of the granite
wall circling East C^ampus. The Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Organ, Flentrop, 1976 in
the Chapel notes his interest m the arts and religion, and the prestigious Benjamin N.
Duke Scholars Program continues his special interest in enabling \x)ung men and women
to earn a college education. But without an outdoor \isibilit) similar to his father and
brother, "Mr. Ben" as he was affectionately called, lacks recognition worthy of his contri-
bution tt) Trinity College and Duke Universit)'. Today we proudly recognize Benjamin N.
Duke, industrialist and philanthropist who contributed greatly to the fortune, benefac-
tions and reputation of the famiK; and trustee, the family member with the longest
tenure on the board of trustees of Trinit)' College and Duke University.
Ben Duke was born in 1S55 in a modest farmhouse a few miles north of
Durham. Washington Duke had built the house for his second wife, Artelia Roney, in
1852. Ben's younger brother, James, and sister, Mary, also were born there before tragi-
cally, Artelia and one of Washington Duke's son's from his first marriage, died of typhoid
fever in 1S5S. Widowed for the second time, Washington relied upon the children's
aunts and grandparents to help raise them. Later in life he also gratefully acknowledged
the role of the circuit riding preachers of the Methodist Church in this time of troubles.
An upbringing rooted in family and church had a proft)und effect upon the children.
In 1.S65, after a brief period in Confederate service, Washington gathered his
children at home again and together they began to turn from farming to the manufacture
Top — Brothers. BeujdDuii N. Duke, left, dJid fiDiies B. Duke, rii^ht,
I'LU'iitiouiui^ at AtLuitie i'.itv. New Jersey.
Bottom — Beujdiuiu N. and Scirdh P. Duke with their daui^hter, Mary Duke Diddle.
iiiid gniuddiUii^hter, Mdry Duke Biddle, eiiioynii^ the heaeh at AtLuitie City.
of tobacco products tor sale. Hach member had a role in beating, sifting, and packaging
tobacco, or in peddling the finished product by wagon. School was intermittent in local
academies but Mary and Ben each completed a year at nearby New Garden Boarding
School, now Guilford College. As the popular locally grown bright leaf tobacco launched
an industry, many developing businesses relocated to be near the railroad. Consequently
the city of Durham grew spectacularly. The Dukes moved to town in 1874, incorporat-
ing the business as W Duke Sons and Company in 187S. The Dukes turned to cigarettes,
first with laborers to hand roll the product, to successfully compete with the leading
"Bull Durham" brand. As partners and talented salesmen literally circled the globe adver-
tising and selling Duke products, Ben handled the correspondence and ran the front
office. James B. Duke, however, clearly became the driving force in the company, later
moving to New ^brk City in 1(S,S4 to open a factory devoted entirely to the machine
manufacture of cigarettes.
In 1890, James B. Duke persuaded the five leading tobacco companies to con-
solidate into the American Tobacco Company with him as president. Expansion followed
in Japan, China, Cuba and Europe and through the control of subsidiary companies pro-
ducing tobacco flavoring, packaging and machinery. The new company came to control
over ninety per cent of the cigarette business in the United States and over eighty per
cent of the entire tobacco industry except for cigars. Ben Duke was a director and for a
time, treasurer, of the American Tobacco Company, and director of several of the sub-
As the family wealth grew, they branched out into new endeavors. In 1892 Ben
Duke enticed William A. Erwin, an experienced textile manager, to join him in launching
a textile mill in Durham. Named Erwin Mills with Ben Duke as president and Erwin as
secretary and treasurer, the ccMiipany first produced tobacco bag cloth. It quickly became
one of the largest mills in the state. Soon the partners opened a second textile mill in
Durham and others in Erwin and Cooleemee, making Ben Duke one of the state's most
successful textile manufacttirers. Ben Duke also became president of three banks, a real
estate company, and the local Cape Fear & Northern Railroad which he extended to
Durham and renamed the Durham & Southern.
Ever alert for new ventures the Duke brothers were in the vanguard of the
development of a second major industry, electric power production. Prompted by the
desire for more efficient textile production, Ben, as early as 1897, became aware of
efforts at hydroelectric power production at scattered sites along rivers in North and
South Carolina. James B. Duke became interested because of the challenge of bringing
large scale economic development to his native region. With the Dukes providing most
of the capitol, investors incorporated the Southern Power Company in Charlotte, North
Carolina in 1905. Later renamed the Duke Power Company, the venture played a major
role in the industrialization of the piedmont section of the Carolinas. It also became the
primary interest of James B. Duke after the breakup of the tobacco trust by the Supreme
Court in 1911.
Senior portraits of Mary Lillian Dnkc, Trinity College, '07,
and Angier Buchanan Ditke, Trinity College, 'OS,
children of Benjamin N. and Sarah P. Duke.
Appeals to the Dukes tor eontributions became commonplace as their wealth
and generosity became known. Washington Duke was especially supportive of family, the
Methodist Church, and the disadvantaged, particularly African Americans and their insti-
tutions. As the patriarch grew older Ben increasingK became the famiK' dispenser of phil-
anthropy. He worked at the task and enjoNed it immenseh'. hiitial giving primarily went
to preachers and churches and an orphanage at nearby Oxford but family giving increas-
ingly centered on a Methodist institution ot higher education, drinit\' College. Ben Duke
made the first family contribution to the college m I SS"^ and he \va.-> elected to the board
of trustees in 1SS9.
Located in Randolph C!ount\; Irinity College was undergoing tremendous
change under the leadership of a new president, John F. Crowell. Crowell was initiat-
ing curricular reform and attracting new faculty but most significantly he sought to
relocate the college from its quiet rural surroundings to an urban setting. Raleigh was
selected as the new site for the college. Durham entered the picture when Raleigh was
slow in meeting its monetary pledge and local Methodist ministers enticed Washington
Duke tt) make an offer. Duke personalK pledged $(S5, ()()() for a building and endow-
ment and he suggested asking Julian S. Carr to donate the land. When the college
trustees accepted his offer it was clear pride in church and pride in cit\' had united the
Dukes with Trinity College.
The relocation of the college to Durham m I S92 was not without difficult)'.
Construction problems delayed the move and expansion at the time of a national eco-
nomic depression threatened the school's existence. Soon Ben Duke lamented that the
college had only caused "trouble and worr\," but he took on the task of not letting it fail,
hi 1 896 Ben calculated that he had paid one-third of the operating expense of the col-
lege since its relocation. In 1(S97 a new president, John C. Kilgo, invigorated the college
and excited the Dukes. Washington Duke sent a strong signal of approval by donating
$30(),()()() for endowment before his death in 1905.
The first two decades of the twentieth centur\- represented a dramatic change
for the college. The physical plant and landscaping of the campus improved tremen-
dously. Trinity's academic reputation was firmly established by its leading role in estab-
lishing high admission standards for undergraduates as well as for its new school of law.
hi 1903 the college received deserved national recognition for its strong stand for acade-
mic freedom when the board of trustees did not request the resignation of Prt)fessor
John Spencer Bassett when he challenged the prevailing southern views on race. Suident
enrollment increased but with the guiding principle being "quality over numbers," and a
strong faculty was assembled with almost all having Ph.D. degrees earned at the best uni-
versities in the United States and abroad.
Throughout these pivotal decades Ben Duke's influence was ever present. He
helped engineer the majority trustee vote in the Bassett Affair by persuading his business
colleagues on the board to support the principle of academic freedom. He supported
Top to bottom: Brothers, Angler Biddle ami Anthony 'Tony" Drexel Duke, in front of tlw
statue of tlwir great -gramifatljer, Washington Dnice. Amlyassador Angier Biddle Diiize, left, at
the presentation of his papers to the Duke Library. Benjamin E. Powell and R. Taylor Cole
accept the f^ifwrs for the university Tony Duke as a unwersity trustee and as a ceremonial
partictpa)it in the first f)otball game in the new university stadium in I92^\
scholarships, endowed professorships and u,a\e nione\' for salaries, current expenses,
land, buildini!,s and eciuipnienr. He persuaded his brother to make his hrst gift to the col-
lege by donating money for a new library and $ 10, ()()() for books. And as always Ben had
a keen eye for the appearance of the college. He donated money for a granite wall to
surround the campus and at commencement one \ear he t)pically urged that extra atten-
tion be given to beautihcation noting, if need be, he would "see that the bill is paid."
Ben Duke's monetary gifts to the college were so numerous that an accurate
tally is impossible. By adding an incomplete list of gifts published in the annual C^ollege
Bulletin, a total of $ 1,2 vS, ()()() can be calculated without including help in the construc-
tion of many buildings. One simply must agree with President William Preston Few,
Kilgo's successor, when he named Benjamin N. Duke the "chief benefactor of Trinity
College." But Few relied on Ben Duke for more than money. Few frequently sought and
relied upon his advice. As increasing illness kept Ben confined at home. Few turned, at
Ben's urging, to James B. Duke for famil) support.
On December I I, l'->24 James B. Duke signed the indenture creating the Duke
Endowment which codihed decades of family philanthropy and included ideas about the
college Few had discussed with the two brothers since 1 9 1 9. Trustees of the philan-
thropic foundation were instructed to distribute the annual iiK\)me from securities worth
$40, ()()(), ()()(), to hospitals, orphanages and four educational institutions in North and
South Carolina, and to the Methodist Cduirch and its retired pastors in North Carolina.
The largest portion of the annual distribution for higher education was designated for a
university to he built around Trinit)' College and eventually at least $17 million was ear-
marked for the construction of two campuses for the universitx'. President Few proposed
that the new institution be named Duke Universir\ and James B. Duke agreed if it were
understood that it was to be named after his father and tamiK.
Few had acknowledged in the past that perhaps Ben, and by extension the fam-
ily, might have considered bearing financial responsibility for Trinit}' College to be bur-
densome. But he put their opportunirv in perspective saying "\bu have the unique
distinction of being in this region a pioneer builder of education on a vast scale." Clearly
James B. Duke's creation of the Duke Endowment with the corollary transition of Trinity
College into Duke University met, if not exceeded. Few's vision. Immediately after the
signing of the indenture Few wrote Ben, "... my dream and your dream is to be realized
in full. Isn't it glorious."
Building the campuses and launching the university were indeed busy and glori-
ous times but sadly James B. Duke became seriously ill and died on October 10, 1925.
His death was hard on Ben for they were the closest of brothers btit he was buoyed and
supported by family. Benjamin Duke had married Sarah Pearson Angier of Dtirham in
1S77. They had three children, Ceorge Washington who died as a small child, Angier
Buchanan bt)rn in 1SS4, and Marv born in 1887. Ben and N4ary raised the children in
Dcdicdtinii ccrcmoiiy for tlw S.inil.i P. Duke Ciiinieiis irith the dedicatory
pLiqiie ill the [wrgoLi. Scinih P. Diihe. hoiioree. Mjr\ Duke Biddh\
donor, iUid i^rdiidsoii lUid sou, NuhoLis Beujauiin Duke Biddle.
MO i j^
Durham .\\m\ New "lork Cju and rhey were delighted when rhe\- enrolled and graduated
h\)m Irinin, C^t)llege, Angier in I'-XIS and Mary m I'-HP.
hi 1915, New York and Philadelphia societ)- celebrated the marriages of a Duke
brother and sister to a Biddle sister and brother. Angier married Cordelia Biddle in April
and Marv married -Anthon) j. Drexel Biddle, [r. in June. The elder Dukes greatly
enit)\ed their grandchildren, Angier and Cordelia's boys, Angier and Anthony, and Mary
and Anthony's bov and girl, Nicholas and Mary. Although Ben Duke was bedridden late
in life, the grandchildren enjoxed and looked forward to their \ isits to his New York
mansion. They had stairs to play on, an elevator to ride, and treats and stt)ries to enjoy
from their grandfather. To this day they harbor two strong images of Ben Duke. He
alwavs had a vase of cut American Bcaut\ roses by his bedside and he had a constant
stream of people visiting him.
Ben Duke's visitors could be his personal stockbroker or people who interested
him from the city, but more often they were family and indi\ iduals reporting on schools
or orphanages or hospitals or churches that were of interest to him. Many were African
American. The Dukes had long identified with the disad\antaged and they frequendy
supported African American induiduals and institutions. In Durham when \X/iitts
Hospital opened for whites, the Dukes hnanced Lincoln Hospital for blacks. One of Ben
Dukes frequent visitors in New ^brk was Mr. C. C. Aniey of the North Carolina College
for Negroes (now North Carolina Central University')- hi Durham Ben gave frequently to
the college, continued vital support for Lincoln Hospital, and helped St. Joseph's African
Methodist Church. He also ga\e liberally to nearb\ African American institutions, an
orphanage in Oxford and K.ittrell Ct^llege north of Raleigh, hi Durham Ben also had
strong personal attachment, which he backed with hnancial support, to Main Street
Methodist Church and the Conservatory for Music. The Dukes had started the
Methodist Church for employees in their tobacco factory. It was renamed Duke
Memorial Methodist Cdiurch after the death of James B. Duke.
After the creation of the Duke Endowment and premature death of James B.
Duke, Ben Duke was besiegecJ with requests for money. During the last four years of his
life he donated approximately $3,000,000 to twent\'-seven institutions of higher educa-
tion in the South. One may frequently discover a building named for B. N. Duke on a
college campus such as nearby Elon College or at Lincoln Memorial Universit)' in
Harrogate, Tennessee. His last significant gift to Duke University was the creation of the
Angier B. Duke Memorial in 1925. This memorial to his son, who died tragically in a
boating accident, was the principal source of student scholarships and loans for the new
university. Ben's consistent but quiet philanthropy earned him the sobriquet "cheerful
giver" by those who knew him perscMially.
Benjamin Newton Duke-industrialist, philanthropist, trustee-died January 8,
1 929 in New York. A special train bore his remains south arriving in Durham over the
tracks of his railroad, the Durham and Southern. His body lay in state in the East Duke
Top: Doris Duke, daughter of fame B. Duke, assists in the cornerstone-lay tug ceremony
of the University's West Campus in 19 2S. A. C. Lee, chief engineer for construction is on
the left ami (ieorge G. Alloi, chairman of the Duke Endou'uwnt is on the right.
Bottom: President Terry Sanf>rd, left, honors Mary /). B. T. Semans, granddaughter of
Benjamin N. Duke, and her hushand janws H. Semans.
Building with an honor guard of university students before the funeral at Duke
Memorial Methodist Church. After the service a second honor guard of Duke students
lined each side of Chapel Hill Street from the church to the family mausoleum in
Maplewood Cemetery. The university' proudly but reverently honored its benefactor.
Vice President Robert Lee Flowers noted 'if Benjamin Duke had not been born. Trinity
College would never have been in Durham, and Duke University' would never have
existed." Later after the completion of the Duke C^hapel on West Campus the bodies of
Washington, James B. and Ben)amin N. Duke were mo\ ed to their hnal resting place in
the specially constructed Memorial Chapel.
Today we gladly honor Benjamin N. Duke. It is fitting that his statue be erected
on East Campus, the original site of Trinity' College in Durham and the first campus of
Duke University. While it honors "Mr. Ben," it is a htting tribute to his family as well. As
he would proudly note, his children, grandchildren and succeecling generations have fol-
lowed in his footsteps in philanthropy and in service to the college, university' and
mankind. And at long last this statue provides a public, visual recognition of each of the
primary benefactors of the institution now known as Duke University. To some, Ben
Duke was the "conscience of the family." His life is worthy of emulation for us all,
family, administrators, and students alike.
Stephen H. Smith Sculptor
Stephen H. Smith, a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, has studied architecture,
environmental design, art, art history and sculpture. He earned the Bachelor of Arts Degree from
the Universit)' of North Cart)lina at Chapel Hill in 1^79 and the Master of Fine Arts in sculpture
from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in \^)H1. His varied training contributes to
his conception of the importance of context and place m the design of his sculpaire. He is particu-
larly conscious of personalit)' and movement m creating works of art.
Smith's work and teaching have been concentrated in deorgia and North Carolina hut
his sculpture is permanently exhibited in six states and japan and Germany hi North Carolina,
among others, he has work permanently exhibited at the Bowman-Gray Medical Center in
Winston-Salem, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Duke Universit)' Medical
Center. His most recently commissioned work is the larger-than-life statue of James K. Polk, the
eleventh President of the United States, for the Morehead Foundation at the Lhiiversiry of North
Carolina at Chapel H\\\. Smith's studio is in Marshville near Charlotte, North Carolina.
This sketch IS Kisfd (in ni.itcn.il tnini tlic Duke Llnivt-rsin- Arcliivcs, the Papers of Benj.iniin N. Duke in the R.ire
B.H.k, M.uiuseript and Speei.il C (illeai<ins Department (it Perkins l.ibrarv, THE DUKES OF DURHAM, 1X2(1-1^2^ bv Robert
F. Dur(.len, and IE CARC.O'llES CCXU D EAIK, SKETCHES OF lUIKE tlNIVFRISn' hv VCilliani E. King.
William F. Kini;, Universit\ Archivist
UNIVERSITY OF N C AT CHAPEL HILL
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